Nuts are a tasty treat that pack a punch in the nutrient department and, unfortunately, in the calorie department as well. Although nuts are quite calorie dense, these natural snacks redeem themselves by providing plenty of protein, fiber and antioxidants, such as vitamin E and selenium. In addition, nuts are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, also known as omega 3 fats or the “good fats.”

Fortunately, nuts can bring benefits to people beyond the snack dish, too, as certain types of nuts often are pressed and blended into massage creams. This means massage therapists and their clients can enjoy the health boosting attributes of nuts when applied topically and absorbed via the skin. In this case, there is no need to be concerned about calories!

One highly common nut-based ingredient found in quite a few massage creams is shea nut butter, also known simply as shea butter. Although the shea nut is not one we tend to eat, it is popular in a wide range of cosmetic products, as this nut is full of perks. Shea nut butter is a natural fat that boasts the ability to thoroughly moisturize skin, among other benefits.

According to the American Shea Butter Institute, the fatty extract from the seed of the shea tree contains a number of ingredients with biological activity that both moisturizes skin and helps heal certain ailments.

The institute reports that shea butter comprises several natural anti-inflammatory agents, as well as a minor sunscreen agent. Those who routinely apply shea butter have reported relief from blemishes, itching, sunburns, small skin wounds, eczema, skin allergies and wrinkles. The fact that shea butter contains both vitamins A and E may account for its myriad reported benefits.

Shea nut butter comes from the fruit of a shea tree, and it’s extracted via the crushing and boiling of shea nuts. These trees are found throughout Africa, from Senegal to Uganda. They do not begin to produce fruit until they are 20 years old, and they reach full production at around 45 years. Thereafter, the shea tree can produce its nuts for up to 200 years.

Another nut commonly manufactured for use in massage cream and other cosmetics is the almond. You will see this ingredient listed as almond oil on the ingredient label, if this nut is indeed included in the formula. Almond oil has a long history of use as a massage lubricant, mostly because it is such an effective emollient. The ease with which almond oil is absorbed into the skin also is reported to aid in promoting firmness and elasticity.

However, as a concerned bodyworker, you may choose to keep massage creams that are free of nut oils on hand as well. Nut allergies are fairly common, and depending on the severity of this allergy, it may be best to avoid slathering the skin of any client who has a nut allergy with a massage cream containing this ingredient. If a cream is marked hypoallergenic, it’s most likely free of nut oil.

—Brandi Schlossberg